We Can’t Resort To Robbery, When We Have Gold On Our Land –Tontokrom Youths
–TontokromYouths Cry Out
The seemingly frustrated youths of Tontokrom and its neighboring communitiesin the Amansie South District,in the Ashanti Region, who have for some time now been in a firefight with mining firm, Asanko Gold Mines,over a mining concession because of joblessness, have said they cannot resort to armed robbery or any criminal acts to survive on, when there is gold deposit on their land.
According to them, the youth cannot continue to be unemployed and wallow in abject poverty when there is abundance of such natural resource deposit at their disposal that could offer them jobs to feed their families.
They told The Anchor, they will not back down on their protests and demands, until authorities intervene to open the opportunity for them to work and improve their lives.
Leader and spokesperson of the youth, Kwabena Animoyam, told this paperthey are Ghanaians and indigenes of the Asante land and, therefore, should not be denied their right towhat is due them.
“We cannot go into armed robbery. This is what is due us but they are taking it away from us. So, we plead with government to come to our aid,” he stressed, adding “If someone lives near the sea, it is the sea they get their daily bread from.”
Mr. Animoyamindicated that, the conduct of the AsankoGold Mines, a company owned by South Africans, against the people of Tontokrom leaves much to be desired.
The young men and women have been up in arms, accusing the mining firm of denying them the opportunity to work. They are begging government to use a portion of the same land to establish its community mining programme to offer jobs to the teeming youth.
According to the youth, several applications to government, through the Minerals Commission,to establish its flagship Community Mining Scheme in the area, with a population of over 10,000 youths, to get them job, have been blocked by the management of Asanko, leaving majority of them idle and roaming about.
They mentioned that even though the portion of the land the youth are asking for to be used for the project is just a small area, less than 20 acres, which is just one concession, the South African mining giant is still not ready to release it to help the youth get a job.
They said it was unacceptable for total strangers to have jobs and be protected by both police and soldiers, whilethey resorted to the use of armed mento intimidate indigenes on their own land.
“Asanko doesn’t want us to have the community mining in the area so they have been parading the town with soldiers. Last month, they were here in their numbers and so the residents had to flee from the town out of fear. The media has reported it extensively,” the youth lamented.
They indicated that the establishment of the scheme will offer the youth decent employment opportunities and also cease from the persistent clashes with the mining firm.
Clash with Military
On Saturday, July 15, the youths clashed with the company again, after the firm stormed the area with fully-armed police, soldiers and some heavily-built men suspected of being land guards.
Eyewitnesses told The Anchor that, but for the huge presence of the angry youths, who outnumbered the Asanko Gold Mines’ armed men, the incident would have been bloody.
Amidst sporadic gunshots, the youths massed up in their numbers to face off with the armed men, numbering about 40, after they had been brought all the way from Accra to the area in buses and V8 Land Cruiser vehicles, to terrorize and ward themoff from the company’s concession.
Videos and pictures of the July 15 incident, sighted by this paper, showed as many as 37 empty cartridges scattered on the ground. It is unclear, whether the armed men, deployed to the area by Asanko Mines, were sanctioned by the state security hierarchy.
Residents told The Anchor that, this is not the first time Asanko Mines is clashing with the youth, using armed soldiers and the police.
This paper is informed that, as early as 6am, the team of armed men had arrived on the disputed land to provide protection and ward off any challenger.
But their presence attracted the townsfolk, especially the youths, who thronged the area to face the armed men.
Though without any weapons, the young men started agitating, questioning the presence of the armed men.
Spokesperson for the youth, Kwame Animoyam, said they were informed Asanko Mines tasked the armed men from Accra to come and protect the land.
The officers and their collaborators, the paper gathered, had come in seven vehicles, including some Toyota mini-buses and Land Cruisers, supposedly belonging to the mining firm.
The agitation by the youth, according to Kwame, infuriated the “machomen” among the officers, who tried to disperse them with several warning shots.
But the youth acted unperturbed, and went on to warn them to vacate the land.
Their call follows a recent peaceful demonstration organized during the launch of the Community Mining Scheme at Atwimanso community by a deputy minister of lands and natural resources, George MirekuDuker.
The youth, numbering more than 400, wielding placards, had stormed the programme to communicate their grievances and request to the deputy minister to have the programme launched in their community too.
The youth, who thanked the deputy minister and the government for the initiative in the adjoining town, said it would be much appreciated if the gesture is extended to the over 10, 000 population in Tontokrom.
Mr.Duker, who is in-charge of mining, before his speech, took time to address the youth, assuring them that he has taken into account their plea and so will task the district chief executive (DCE) and the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area to look into their concerns and take the necessary action.